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Rebel Without A Cause

John Collins08/05/2013

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During my thirty-seven years within a cult, I can remember people leaving.  They left never to return, and soon to be forgotten.  While under the cult programming, we focused on the things in their new lives that we considered to be “evil,” telling ourselves that their sudden change exposed who they “really are.”

Now, having spent several months on the other side of this fence and watching the hundreds who are beginning to flee, I realize just how backwards that statement really was.  Our thinking was more directed at pacifying our inner questions and concerns rather than targeting the person for which it was intended.

There is such a wide range of change, and even wider a range of duration before this change takes place.  Some have left the cult for many years, and really have not changed that much.  For others, it is a slow and gradual process, taking one step at a time as they learn for themselves between right and wrong.

Some escapees, however, hit the ground running.  Their change is immediate, and they seem to make themselves as noticeably different as possible in just as little time.  Their difference in appearance or personality is so sudden, in fact, that cult members would consider them “rebels,” and even more to the point, “rebels without a cause.”

But if we examine the situation a little closer, we find that even for the “runners,” this statement doesn’t quite fit.

When a person who has been indoctrinated with cult programming for several years suddenly drops all rules and takes the opposite stand, it is a shock.  Not just to the cult members, but also to those who are also fleeing – but fleeing a little more carefully.  Even to those on the outside, these people are “rebels without a cause.” 

For a long time, I looked at these people with a very wrong, critical point of view.  I actually looked down on them as I tried to untangle all of the extra-biblical teaching from my mind.  While I was working through all of my issues, they seemed to be happy and free, not caring in the slightest with regards to their eternal destination.

Looking back, I realize that many of them were struggling much, much worse than the rest of us.

There is emotional scarring from years of emotional and spiritual abuse, and it causes great inward pain.  Many of them also have silent histories of physical or sexual abuse that turn those scars into open wounds that may never heal.  While other churches are taught to expose, correct, and even notify authorities, cults by nature are taught by example to hide these things under the rug.  The system could not survive if the rug were not there.

And while the illegal abuse seems likely to have the most impact, that’s simply not the case.  Their memory can associate specific events with the abuse, label those as “wrong,” and move on.  But the emotional and spiritual abuse is much more difficult to label.

Spiritual abuse occurs when a person in religious authority, usually having a unique spiritual practice, misleads or mistreats his or her following by misinformation of information or abusing their position.  This type of abuse is the most difficult to heal, because it cannot be noticed during one single event.  There are hundreds, thousands, of these very slight tugs into the direction they lead.

This type of abuse is also difficult to explain.  One might point to a specific teaching or a specific sermon to another cult member, and the abuse is so small that it goes unnoticed.  Many would even deny calling it “abuse,” because the leader may have simply made a mistake or misspoken. 

To identify spiritual abuse, you must examine the entire series of teachings, from the day the leader decided that he or she wanted to rise into authority, to the start and finish of their climb into power, to the teachings while under spiritual authority and sometimes even unto the last words spoken before their death.

It is very similar to a criminal investigation.  Finding the body does not label the suspect a killer.  You must first find motive, and then find how that motive was employed.

The cult I escaped had many of these “road signs.”  Some of them were so strange that cult pastors or cult members would ask, “Why would he purposefully do this?  Why would he purposefully do that?”  They were subtle instances of spiritual abuse that it seemed no man in their right mind would knowingly do.

I heard the question, “Why would the leader lie about his conversion to Christ?  He continued preaching ‘the gospel!’”  I also heard the question, “Why would he lie about his own birthdate?  There was nothing to be gained by doing so!”

When we take one or two, even ten or twenty instances of spiritual abuse, and examine them individually, they do seem silly.  Even an expert examining them might toss them aside as “mistakes” or “forgetfulness.”  But when we combine these misleading statements with the hundreds of other, similar, instances of spiritual abuse, we find a pattern that is designed to lead the follower in a direction that is away from truth.

It is because of this that we find “rebels without a cause.”  They actually have a cause, or a purpose, but they themselves do not fully understand what is behind that purpose.

Some of them have tried to explain their spiritual abuse to family or friends, but are not able to piece together the motive for the murder.  Some have even stumbled across the loaded gun with a missing bullet in the chamber and smoke pouring out the barrel, but without motive they might as well give up!

These are the people that I feel the most compassion towards.  They’re reaching out, begging for others to notice, but don’t have all of the information.  They sense those thoughts from the scornful eyes, and realize that they are quickly going to be an outcast.  They have stumbled onto the underlying issues, and now they are forced to give up their life as they once knew it.  They just don’t understand why.

As they struggle to find themselves, they find themselves scorned.  Not just by the cult, but also by some that have escaped.  Rebellion against the right purpose is praised, but “rebel without a cause” is seen as reckless and dangerous.

But these people do not create sudden change in their lives because it is comfortable to them.  Many times, it is through severe inward pain.  Many of their changes have to do with outward appearance or with actions that can be seen easily by others.  They want to be noticed, and they want to be observed as different from those who are under the spiritual abuse they have uncovered!

In the thirty-seven years of my bondage in the cult, I never heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Unlike several of my peers, I studied the cult teaching to levels far beyond most, and was very eager to listen to the cult leader’s every word.  I knew almost every doctrine he created, every fictional story he told, every supernatural event he deployed in his campaign of spiritual abuse, and even many of the sermons by heart.  The “gospel” we were taught was a different gospel.  The differences were like night and day.

From the day Moses broke the stone tablets over the idolatrous and rebellious people, mankind has struggled to understand God’s purpose in giving us the Gospel.  These rules given under the Mosaic Law had purpose, and Jesus tells us exactly what that purpose is.  God wants us to have perfect love.  Love for God and love for man.  All the commandments are summed up into those two things.

Men do not understand.  They focus their thoughts on the evil that is created by breaking the rules rather than the good that God intended.  Every single one of the Ten Commandments can be answered by love.  If you love, you will not kill.  If you love, you will not steal.  In all things: love.

When Christ came to fulfill the part of the Covenant that man could not keep, we entered into the eternal covenant of Grace.  And if we examine the spiritual abuse that the people suffered in the days of Christ, we find some very strong similarities.

God was no longer the authority of the people.  The Scribes and the Pharisees were seen as great spiritual leaders, and their interpretation of the Law was the ultimate authority.  Common man could not argue with their interpretation, because they had no “spiritual authority.”

They had “Lawyers,” men who studied the Law.  These men would take the words of that Law and twist them to their own benefit, raising the “spiritual leaders” into even higher authority.  New “Laws” would be invented, and none of these new laws could be answered with love.  They were “Laws” simply because the leaders proclaimed them to be so.

To the Scribes and Pharisees, these followers of Christ were also “rebels without a cause.”

There were many rules under the Mosaic Law that dealt with outward appearance, outward expressions, and outward actions.  These rules did have purpose:  God used the Children of Israel to show us that mankind cannot save itself by their own works.  It is only by the Grace of God that we can be saved.

Christ, by example, taught His disciples to be “rebels without a cause,” or rather, “rebels against tyranny.”  Mark 7 gives us an example, Christ teaching AGAINST the Mosaic Law regarding pork, food sacrificed to idols, and more:

“And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.)  And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him.  For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.  All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” – Mark 7

Churches today take the scripture “whosoever shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me” from Matthew 18 out of context to say that we should respect the religious beliefs of others no matter how wrong they are.  I know many who have escaped the cult that will strictly adhere to the dress code simply because they want to show their respect to the friends and family within the cult.

What they do not realize is that they are not showing their respect to cult members.  Once you are on the outside, all respect is lost.  Instead, they are showing their support to the teaching, no matter how false.  I can remember other cult members saying, “She still knows it’s wrong to wear those pants – when she’s around us, she still wears them!”

The laws of modesty had very little to do with sexuality.  “Breeches” were actually a woman’s garment, and the men wore robes which were similar in structure to the dresses of women today.  Unlike today, clothing was associated with stature.

When the Bible instructs women not to wear garments that pertain to men, or to wear “modest” clothing, these teachings are against “pride,” which Christ just called “evil.”

And sadly, the Pentecostal movement has taught men and women to become prideful in their choice of apparel.  Others who do not follow their same rules are either scorned or condemned, making the clothing that seems “modest” with regards to sexuality to become the very opposite of modest.  Their clothing has now become their idol.

Anything that you include in your worship that does not follow the teaching of Christ and the new covenant can very easily become idolatrous.  In of itself, there is no harm in wearing clothing that covers skin.  I know very good, Christian people who wear this type of “modest” clothing.  But when your religion teaches you that you must live this way in order to be “clean” or “pure,” then you have just replaced the blood of Jesus Christ for those old rags.  You have let your idol nullify the Work that Christ did for you on the cross.

Looking back, these “rebels without a cause” seemed to be breaking rules that put them in pathways that angels feared to tread.  But after reading the Bible without the blinders of spiritual abuse, I’m not so sure this is the case.  Many of the rules we thought were scriptural through the twisting of the Bible seem less important as those twisted scriptures are untangled.  Very little of our rules were founded in love for our fellow man.  Many of them actually hurt our fellow man, and most of them filled our hearts with pride, which is sin.  We placed more emphasis on these rules than we did the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and these rules became our idols.

While they probably did not yet realize it, they were lifting their hands, saying, “We no longer submit to idolatry!  We choose the Blood!”

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